June 2nd, 2011

Hyland's Heroes: Spotlight on Bob Tonini

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Spotlight on Bob Tonini
Photo from Bob Tonini

Local volunteer finds passion helping SHA athletes

The following feature is a part of a weekly series, sponsored by Hyland, Block & Hyland, called "Hyland's Heroes"- a set of profiles that will spotlight Louisville area Catholic volunteers, coaches and administrators who assist athletic programs and teams and help promote excellence in all aspects of sports. Do you know someone that you think should be featured? Send us your recommendation to editor@catholicsportsnet.com.

A familiar face on the sidelines at Sacred Heart Academy basketball games for years, Bob Tonini started his volunteer coaching at Ascension Elementary where his girls attended school. His longtime friendship with Donna (Bender) Moir and the Bender family led to a natural joining of forces when Moir took over the Sacred Heart basketball program.

“When she (Moir) took over the program, she asked me to help,” said Tonini. “The year before she took over they were 2-22, so basically we had to rebuild the program. I was the organizational person and she did all of the coaching. I just coached the freshman team and helped her where she needed.”

You’ll find people like Tonini throughout Catholic school athletics; those unsung heroes who keep programs afloat with their service to the student-athletes and the school community.

“I did the things that needed to be done that nobody wanted to do,” Tonini chuckled. “I’d go sit in gyms on Saturdays and Sundays for years trying to get kids to come to Sacred Heart without recruiting. Sacred Heart was the first Catholic school to have an incoming freshman or AAU-type program for younger kids and that was something that I helped to start at the school.”

Nearly twenty years ago other schools thought that SHA and Tonini were recruiting illegally. But now, every school has some type of feeder program to assist with their high school teams.

“We took some flak from other schools, but we had to build our program,” he said.

Various parts stats guy, computer guy, PA announcer, coach and jack-of-all-trades, Tonini has that selfless attitude so prevalent in the sporting world. And just like everyone else in his shoes, it was a labor of love to help others.

“To be honest, Donna had no staff back then and I just tried to give her a hand wherever she needed it,” said Tonini. “It was kind of my way of giving back to the school. To me, it’s all about the kids. It’s helping the kids and getting them to earn the recognition.

“When I started working with them in the early ‘90’s it was tough for kids to get recognition,” he said. “And that’s another hat I started to wear back then: attracting some media attention for what the great things that the girls were doing.”

An involved parent like Tonini gets to see a lot of games. And through the years, that means he’s filtered through a lot of college coaches in the SHA gyms. He still gets calls all the time from coaches looking for an honest evaluation about players.

“I go to a game almost every night of the week,” he said. “Whether it’s a Sacred Heart opponent or just to put it in the memory bank, I’ve seen a lot of girls games in this state over the years.”

With all of that time and energy spent giving to the kids, there has to be something coming back. While it may not be monetary, it goes far beyond what a salary could bring.

“Just the gratification of seeing one of the girls we’ve coached over the years is enough for me,” said Tonini. “She may be 32 or 33 years old, but that someone will come up to me and tell me about her kids and her family and all the great memories we had. Their thanks is enough for me.”


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